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When it comes to the substance of the faith, there are two extremes: Fundamentalism and Universalism. Fundamentalism elevates the “you may” to “you must”—tithing, homeschooling, a particular theory of the atonement, etc. Fundamentalism raises the bar making options essential. The opposite is Universalism. Universalism drops the essentials making them optional. Universalism lowers the bar and says, in effect, “There is nothing you must believe.” Universalism leaves us with such a low bar to the faith that few see any reason to join. This is why we don’t “edit” universal truth. Fundamentalism hands the next runner an anvil to run with. Universalism gives them an empty hand-off. We receive and pass on, “the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.“ Creeds are not Chex Mix. (Creeds for Newbies, Episode 4)

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The message of the gospel is at its heart the message of this call to resist evil without adding to evil. In a nutshell, that is the life Jesus lived and the life he called us to. It might well lead to our suffering. This is the meaning of the cross Jesus asks us to take up. The gospel, though, is that Jesus maintained his commitment to the path of love all the way. In doing so he exposes the false gods of nation, religion, and culture that rely on domination even as they claim to represent God. And it is precisely this commitment that God vindicates when God raises Jesus from the dead. Is pacifism for when “life happens”? A response to Rachel Held Evans

Let’s get something straight: ISIS didn’t behead civilians and then post videos of the killings online because they thought it would deter America and other coalition members from going to war against them. They did it because they knew it was precisely the type of behavior that would bait the world into war–and that such a war would lead inevitably to a flood of new recruits, offended by the excessive force that the western coalition will no doubt use against them. As the collateral damages pile up, retaliation will be only too easy to justify. Launching airstrikes against ISIS may make us feel like we are assuming control of the situation, but we are merely playing out a role that ISIS has written for us. The harder we strike back, the more justified their original acts of violence will appear. Am I smarter than President Obama? I don’t think so…

We should think deeply upon the fact that the Nazi blitzkriegs were waged by baptized soldiers. Had the church held to pre -Constantine convictions, Hitler would never have gotten off the ground. Before we appeal to Hitler as the ultimate argument against Christian nonviolence, we first have to ask how Hitler was able to amass a following of Christians in the first place. After all, it wasn’t atheists and pagans who formed the German Christian movement that lent support to Hitler in the 1930s. Brian Zahnd

Every true Christian is a citizen of two worlds, the world of time and the world of eternity. We are, paradoxically, in the world and yet not of the world. Martin Luther King

Sometimes the most holy work we can do is listen to each other’s stories and take their suffering into our hearts, carrying each other’s burdens and wounds to Christ. So, no, I don’t guard my gates against simply terrible or scary things anymore. Instead, I want to guard my gates against what diminishes wholeness and holiness in me. I guard against the influences that make me the worst version of myself, the influences that feed my natural tendencies towards sin and bitterness, rage and cynicism, seeing the worst of people and being quick to offence. Sarah Bessey

…the prison system is fundamentally designed to help us avoid confronting this reality. We much prefer to think of the prison system as protecting us from evil, rather than as protecting us from facing the disavowed evil (racism, economic injustice, lack of education, unemployment, underemployment etc.) that we dance with daily. This same logic can be perceived in the way that religious organizations often view the homeless. Congregants are invited to get involved with homeless ministry to give something back, to offer people a hand up or to bring some good news. What we see then is nothing but an abstraction that makes us feel good, while protecting ourselves from the danger that we might be provoked to fundamentally change how we live by seeing ourselves as part of the reason why there are homeless people in the first place. Getting Thrown Out of Prison: Judge Dredd, the Oppressed, and Salvation

Signing your name at the bottom of a two-dimensional list of letters and symbols does not ultimately offer a very helpful understanding of how a human being relates to God, Jesus, or the world. What Does It Really Mean to ‘Believe?’

Jesus’ teaching to love our enemies was understandably shocking to his original audience—just as it is to us today. Jesus expected much, which is why, after telling his audience to love their enemies he added that if we only love those who love us and do good those who do good to us, we’re doing nothing more than what everyone naturally does (Luke 6:32-33). But his followers are to be set apart by the radically different way of love. The distinct mark of the reign of God is that God’s people love and do good to people who don’t love them and don’t treat them well—indeed, to people who hate them, mistreat them, and even threaten them and their loved ones. The Distinctive Mark of Jesus Followers

[M]any people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking where they should be listening. He who can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God either; he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God too. This is the beginning of the death of the spiritual life, and in the end there is nothing left. Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We believe in violence. We trust in violence. We trust in violence not because we are bad people, but because we love. Because we love, we want to have our loved ones protected and safe, and we believe that violence is the way to do this. We trust in violence because we want justice, and want to end the injustice, oppression, and suffering we see in the world. Again, we believe that violence is the only way to do this. Violence is how we believe we can bring about peace in the world. That’s why we Americans have put our faith in violence. That’s why we struggle so much with what Jesus says about loving our enemies, just like we struggle with what he says about giving all our money to the poor. The big elephant in the room here is that we just don’t agree with Jesus. We think it would be bad to do these things. The New Testament and Violence: Part 1

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Religious sin is the most destructive kind of sickness, for it masquerades as it feeds off the illusion of health. Far from being open to a cure, this kind of sickness thrives on the illusion that it is the epitome of health. By its very nature, it resist soft correction. Indeed, because it gets life from the rightness of it’s beliefs and behavior rather than from love, the religious version of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil tends to construe all compassion, accommodation, and unconditional acceptance as compromise. People afflicted with religious sin thus tend to disdain compassionate love, even if it is extended toward them. Hence, Jesus’ approach to leaders who fed off this illusion could not be to gently offer them a cure. Rather, for their sake and the sake of those who blindly followed them, he had to publicly expose their sickness. Greg Boyd

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